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A Pirate's Life for Me

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A Pirate's Life for Me

"You wouldn't steal a Car. You wouldn't steal a Handbag. You wouldn't steal a Mobile Phone. You wouldn't steal a Movie. Movie Piracy is Stealing. Stealing is Against the Law. Piracy. It's A Crime." We all have seen this commercial on the television or when you go to see a movie at the theater. Everyone has read in the paper about the lawsuits that have been made by the RIAA against file-sharers of music. Other than that how much do we really know about media piracy? In this paper I will explain to you what media piracy is, how it works, the facts about piracy, and why media piracy is hardly a crime at all.

There are many types of media piracy, but the main topic I will cover will be music piracy. "Music piracy is any form of unauthorized duplication and/or distribution of music including downloading, file sharing, and CD-burning" (http://www.cmta.com/brochure.htm). So in a simple case of a person having a song that he/she likes and wants to show it to his/her buddy by e-mailing the song to them would be breaking the law. I believe if anyone got sued for thousands of dollars for a simple act like this, they would be very upset and feel almost even attacked by the government. Most of this so-called "illegal downloading" of music occurs on college campuses. Can you show proof of this? Therefore college students are the most targeted when it comes to lawsuits for illegal downloading.

Who is taking action on these pirates? The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry (http://www.riaa.com/about/default.asp ). This association is the main prosecutor for illegally downloaded music. Here are a few interesting facts about the RIAA. "The RIAA can sue for as much as $150,000 per song illegally downloaded. Almost 2000 individuals have been sued by the RIAA for illegally downloading as of March, 2004" (http://www.cmta.com/brochure.htm). Pretty scary, huh? Not only do file-sharers face these lawsuits, but can also face punishments for copyright infringement. According to one online article, "In the U.S., the online infringement of copyrighted music can be punished by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned up to six years"( http://www.webopedia.com/DidYouKnow/Internet/2004/music_downloading.asp). That is more punishment than most serious crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, The average times served in 1992 for convicted felons of sexual assault is 35 months (www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/sent.htm). So know the average person sharing files across the internet, can go to jail for the same amount of time as someone convicted of sexual assault. This just is not right. And people are starting to realize this, even the courts. "The manner in which the RIAA has handled their subpoenas and the public reaction has prompted Sen. Sam Brownback (R, Kans) to get off his duff and introduce the Consumers, Schools, and Libraries Digital Rights Management Awareness Act of 2003, a privacy bill that would change the way in which the RIAA conducts their terrorism. They would no longer be able to subpoena ISPs for the personal information by simply filling out a form and getting a court clerk's signature" (http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=11662), according to an article by Bill Glahn. As you can see there are extremely harsh penalties for file-sharers, but the big question is; Does file sharing really hurt artists that much?

The RIAA claims that they have lost vast amounts due to file sharing. "Piracy continues to be a big threat to the music industry, which loses $4.2

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